By Hamid Shalizi
KABUL, Nov 13 – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have urged parliament to halt confidence votes against ministers, fearing further dismissals could rock an already fragile Western-backed government, lawmakers said on Sunday.
In a bold move on Saturday parliament dismissed three cabinet ministers, including the minister of foreign affairs, because of poor performance and vowed to use their votes against 14 more ministers.
Hours later, Afghanistan’s two leaders invited lawmakers to the presidential palace and pleaded with them to suspend further votes.
“President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah told MPs that their decision will deal a huge political blow to the government at this critical time and urged them to stop the process,” Mirdad Najrabi, chairman of parliament’s security commission, told Reuters.
Despite the pleas from Ghani and Abdullah, many lawmakers looked determined to continue the confidence votes with the finance, education and transportation ministers scheduled to appear later on Sunday.
“If the ministers do not want to come, we will vote anyway to keep them or dismiss them,” said lawmaker Gul Padsha Majidi. “This is our right and we will use it and will not let the government politicise this process,” he added.
A statement released by Ghani’s office said the government did not want confrontation and respected the decision of the parliament, but asked the House of Representatives to suspend its decision.
The Afghan constitution gives parliament the power to sack ministers.
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Public Works Minister Mahmood Baligh and Social Services Minister Nasreen Oryakhel failed to win confidence votes and were declared to have been dismissed by the speaker.
Afghanistan’s national unity government, which the United States helped broker following the disputed 2014 election, has been weakened by infighting and a resurgent Taliban.
Kabul was supposed to have overseen fresh parliamentary elections and a constitutional grand council to re-establish political legitimacy.
However, a two-year deadline has passed with none of the promised steps taken, leaving question marks over the future of the government at a time when political uncertainty is already being stoked by rising ethnic tensions.
The deteriorating political situation could become a major foreign policy challenge for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who said little about Afghanistan on the campaign trail.